Shutting it down. Kind of.

 

Guys, I’m shutting down The Garrett.  (That’s what this blog used to be called.) Or, at least, I’m changing it.

When I put this blog together in 2009, back when people were still naming their blogs, it was an appropriate piece of my online platform. Seven years ago blogs were something writers  – especially unpublished writers – were expected to have. It was a way of building an audience, publishing essays, clearing my head before writing fiction and writing online diary entries. And I loved it. I blogged regularly.

That’s no longer true, for the Internet in general, or for me personally. Social media has taken over a lot of the territory once occupied by blogs, and as a freelance writer, I’m less willing to self-publish the essays I could be pitching elsewhere. (Also, now that I have a family and have seen lots of female writers get shouted or threatened off the web, I’m not as willing to write personal diary entries for the world to see. I’m getting old, kids.)

So what happens to the old posts?

What’s going to happen to this space? Well, I’ve already disentangled this blog from my domain name, ajoconnell dot com.

That said, my current plan is to keep the old content, so if you feel the need to discuss Harry Willson Watrous’s painting The Drop Sinister (many visitors do, amazingly) or if you too were a Catholic child plagued by fears of Immaculate Conception, you should still be able to read those posts.

My current plan is to keep all my old content and incorporate it into a new site as a sort of “What I’m Doing Right Now” section. That section probably won’t be the front page, as it is on this site, but it will be an area I can update.

In the meantime, while I’m building, everything should remain as it was and then, one day, when you least expect it: hey presto! New site!

Yeah, but…

“But A.J.,” you may be saying. “That means everything will be pretty much the same, right? Why are you getting so maudlin about it?”

Well, invisible reader in Internetland, let me tell you. Things ARE changing. When this site is reborn — sticky and squalling — as part of a bigger professional writing site, it will lose some of the personal flavor it’s had since 2009. For me, an era will end. A good era.

This blog has been my only website for seven years, and it’s been a part of a community, and although I haven’t blogged regularly in a while, I’ve come to enjoy my interactions with my readers and the informal blogging style I could use here.

So, hey, guys. I don’t know if any of my original readers will see this, but you made The Garrett what it was. Thank you.

 

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Which one of you has been submitting my short stories to lit mags?

This morning, a prominent literary journal rejected a short story of mine.
This should be a bummer, but it’s not, because I have absolutely NO memory of ever submitting it to them. None. So one of you is probably sending my stuff out, right? (If so, thank you.)
Just kidding — not sleeping for a couple of years has done a number on my memory. That story probably sat in their slush pile for a loooong time.
Anyhow, strangely, the rejection was a pleasant surprise:
“Oh, I sent something out? Go me! Oh, it was literary fiction? I’m fancy!”
And actually there’s an unexpected bonus here: I have a finished short story to submit to a journal today. If I look deep enough into my email’s sent folder, I might even have a pre-written cover letter to go with it.

What I’m doing now: a month of revisions

I probably should have mentioned this earlier, but better late than never: Hey readers! At the end of November, I finally finished the first draft of the final book in the Resistance trilogy.

First draft of third book, Star Wars crawl edition.

A post shared by A.J. O'Connell (@annjoc) on

It’s been a long time coming. The second book, The Eagle & The Arrow, was released just around the time I found out I was pregnant with my son. After that, I slowed down in the creativity department.

(I’d always assumed that pregnancy would be a time of quiet reflection and creativity for me. Yeah, no. It turns out that I, personally, cannot gestate a baby and a novel at the same time.)

Anyhow, now that the baby is no longer a baby, but a toddler, my third book is nearly finished. But it’s a draft, and my editor asked to see it by the end of this month. (Which is something I remembered at the end of last month.) So my big job this month is to revise that sucker, a set number of pages a time, through the month of February. I started this project February 2, and am more than halfway through with the revision. I’ve been doing it after work, and during nap times, and although sometimes it’s the very last thing I want to be doing after dinner, I’m amazed at how quickly this revision is moving along.

This is only the first step, though. I still need to read through the first and second books to make sure this book — written more than 10 years after Beware the Hawk was written and four years after the second one was written — makes sense. I’m dreading that part because I like reading my writing as much as most people like listening to recordings of their own voices.

 

This scene is terrible, and I’m not writing it.

fantasy shopping

Wizard shopping. Yaaaaay.

There’s a scene I have to write, but I’ve been dreading it.

It’s the kind of scene I hate reading, but it’s also seemed like the sort of scene I needed to write in order to connect important plot points.
Here’s the breakdown of what needs to happen: It’s a fantasy novel. A character needs warm clothes to go on to his next plot point. So he has to go shopping, but shopping would be a big deal for this particular character, so I have to address this. I can’t just skip it and say “he went shopping.”
But I do not want to write it. I’ve danced around writing it. I’ve brainstormed it. I’ve made little diagrams for it. When I wrote out the story beats for it, I wrote “make this scene FUN!” next to its bullet, as if writing an exclamation point on my outline would make this scene any more interesting. But no, it’s still a stupid scene. Just thinking of writing it makes me tired.

It’s not that I hate shopping. I like shopping. I like it a lot. I went shopping today, in fact. But shopping in fantasy settings? Eh. Those scenes have always seemed stilted and dull to me (yes, even the ones that take place in Diagon Alley).
I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s because reading shopping and actually shopping are two very different experiences. Or maybe it’s because in a fantasy world, shopping often looks nothing like shopping in real life, so the author flounders around, trying to make up something plausible; A character walks into a tailor shop (is that even a thing?) and orders robes or is measured for clothes or whatever, and there’s a lot of stilted olde-timey fantasy talk, and if nothing happens to move the plot along, you can skim right over it.
Anyhow, If I’m bored by the very idea of writing this scene, why bother? Won’t the reader be bored by it as well?
So I decided something.

I’m just not going to write it.

My character doesn’t want to go shopping. I don’t want him to go shopping. So he’s not going. He can either freeze for a few chapters or he can steal something to wear and we can all move on with our lives.
It’s fine. He’s fictional. If he freezes, no one will actually get hurt. And even better, no one will be bored.

 

 

photo credit: Cauldrons, All Sizes via photopin (license)

From today until Thanksgiving, ‘Final Statements’ is free on Amazon

finalstatementsHello everyone!

Thanksgiving is coming up in the U.S., and to celebrate, I’m offering my short story, Final Statements for free on Amazon, from today until Wednesday, the day when we will all be cooking, traveling, or frantically screaming that company is coming and why isn’t this house clean already.

Just go to the link for the free short story. (It is an e-book, so you will need a reader or an app to read it.)

After all, Thanksgiving is a family holiday, and Final Statements is a story about family. Maybe not a great family, but hey, let’s celebrate all families.

 

Scary author tasks: Asking for reviews

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“Excuse me, if you like me, can please you tell everyone how awesome I am? If not, you have my permission to punch me in the face.”

Asking a book blogger to review your novel is a little like approaching a stranger on the street and saying: “Excuse me, if you like me, can please you tell everyone how awesome I am? If not, you have my permission to punch me in the face.”

Okay. Maybe that’s a little melodramatic, but that’s what it feels like to me. And it’s that time again: book review request time.

Every couple of months, I sit down with a spreadsheet and a copy of the Book Reviewer Yellow Pages, take a deep breath, remind myself that it’s too early in the day to start drinking, and start writing emails.

When I put it like that, it  doesn’t sound that difficult, but it is. It’s one of my most demanding tasks as an author, both physically and emotionally.

Physically demanding, because I like to send out several requests in a day, but the requests can never be one mass request. That would be disrespectful.
Every blogger has her own review guidelines, and those review guidelines have to be respected. So if I’m sending out 12 emails to 12 bloggers, I’m typing an individualized email to each, trying to follow their instructors to the letter. (Sometimes bloggers will slip something crazy into their guidelines, like a math problem, or a random phrase, just to make sure authors are paying attention and following directions.) Then there are typos. I worry about typos, and when I fret about them, I create more of them, so each email takes a while.

Emotionally demanding, because basically, I’m spending a lot of time and effort to very politely ask a stranger to give me what could be a horrible review.
Asking people for opinions is a gamble. It’s hard to say “Here, I wrote this thing. Please, tell everyone on the Internet what you think of it.”
Part of the reason it’s so difficult is because I start writing the bad review I expect to get in my head as I’m writing my request to the reviewer. I have to be careful to not write disclaimers or apologizes for the work into the request. I also have to be careful to avoid false bravado.

It’s not my favorite task, but my fears are often unjustified. Many of the reviewers who have responded to my requests have been kind (the insane review guidelines are just so that they are not overwhelmed by authors who mass email them) and have given me wonderful reviews.

But here’s the thing: word of mouth is still the best way to sell a book that doesn’t have the publicity of say, Go Set A Watchman. And on the Internet, book blogs are word of mouth. So if you want to be read, requesting reviews from people with an audience in your genres, you must ask for reviews.

And sometimes, you will get punched in the face. (And remember, you gave that person permission to punch you in the face, so don’t complain about it!) But sometimes, the book blogger will turn around and tell everyone within earshot that you are awesome.

 photo credit: 40+117 Sucka Punch! via photopin (license)

I signed books this weekend in the college bookstore where I once bought a lot of books.

Trinity book signing

Alumni and faculty book signing at Trinity College.

And now from the department of Hey, Guess What I Forgot to Announce:
I was part of a book signing at Trinity College’s Reunion Weekend on Saturday. I loved it, but not gonna lie: it was also very strange. (I never thought I’d be signing books in the store I spent so much money in as an undergrad.)

I’m just posting one photo here, but the rest are over on my Facebook page.

I was there with A.J. Kohlhepp, Todd Coopee, Peter Swanson, Jennifer Prescott, Paul Sullivan, Paul Assaiante, and Lucy Ferriss, Trinity’s writer-in-residence. It was a good mix of veteran writers, new writers, fiction, nonfiction, YA, adult, New York Times best-sellers, self-published and indie writers. You should obviously check them all out.